About Woolly Wits

I am a hand-knitting designer and teacher. See and purchase my published designs on Ravelry.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Chilly Styling

OK, so you know that I am always harping on about how vertical lines are slimming, making cardigans a better option than pullovers, yada, yada, yada.  Well, as I was scanning the fall Talbots catalog for last week's post, I noticed something interesting.  Almost every photograph of a coat or jacket showed it hanging open.  And once I noted this, I had to quantify it.  Of the fourteen outerwear garments, eleven were shown unbuttoned, unzipped, untoggled, etc.  Of the three coats that the models wore fully closed, all three were double-breasted, a style that looks very awkward hanging open because of the extra width of stiff fabric.

Now, I am pragmatic enough to say that the slimmer look gained by the models wearing opened coats is perhaps not the only reason Talbots might be styling them this way.  They are in the business of selling clothing, and the more you can show of a garment, the more of it you will sell.  But they certainly are not choosing to not sell double-breasted coats because they don't reveal the sweater underneath.  The fact that every coat that can be worn open is means that there must be another advantage, and a coat that makes an already slim model look every taller and slimmer must stir a few more shoppers to purchase.

Having seen this phenomenon in coats, I had to go back and look at sweaters.  Of the seven cardigan sweaters shown on models, only one was 'closed', and I use the quotes because I count the cardi with one of its three buttons undone as closed.  Further, three cardigans were designed to eternally hang open, as they had no closures at all.

So does this mean we need to freeze all winter to have the slimming look of an open coat?  Not possible if you live in Wisconsin, as I now do.  My personal solution is to wear a long scarf.  Let the tails hang down the tightly buttoned front of your coat and you not only get a slimmer look, you have an extra layer of warmth.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Real Halloween Fright: Cabled Knits

Drop shoulder Aran Sweater from J Jill
Fall is the season to break out our sweaters, often with a new look at traditional patterns and styles: Fair Isle, Sheltland, Icelandic, Aran.  It's this heavily cabled and textured latter type that is an especially tricky style for knitters who want to flatter their figures.  Cables are created through crossing stitches over stitches, resulting in a double thickness of fabric.  Add that the cables are almost always highlighted with a purl background and filled in with other highly textured patterns, such as seed stitch, and the result is a dense, often stiff fabric.

The shape of traditional Aran sweaters, usually boxy with dropped shoulders, in combination with the stiffness of the fabric, results in all loss of the body underneath, and the torso is large and boxy with an excess of fabric under the arms.  Not a slimming or flattering look.

Talbots sweater
As an aside, I personally detest bobbles on garments.  I think they look like warty growths, which I suppose would be in the Halloween spirit, but not an everyday look I would want to sport.  I find this Talbots sweater to be especially frightful.

How do you make an Aran sweater wearable for a fuller figure?  Remove all stiffness from the fabric.  Choose a yarn with drape and work in on larger needles to open up the fabric.  You also want to move away from the traditional shape:  drop shoulder, crew neck, no side shaping and oversize.  Make it a cardigan (also pretty traditional) and you've introduced a flattering horizontal line.  Bring the fit close to the body, and add some shaping through the torso.  Convert the drop shoulder to a fitted sleeve and eliminate the bulk under the arm.  And, if you are willing to stray a little from the traditional, add a v-neck, which is a universal flatterer.  

Grandpa Cardigan by Joji Locatelli
What do you get when you make those changes?  A great expample is the Grandpa Cardigan by Joji Locatelli.  She models it here in purple, but it would look so traditional in pure sheep's wool cream color.

Grandpa Cardigan knit by Vaida
Just to prove it, I've also shown it here on a lovely knitter, Vaida, who is not as skinny as Joji.  What works for larger-sized knitters is that cables create a natural strong vertical design.  Combine that with the vertical line created by the cardigan's front break, and you've got a slimming sweater.